20 Signs You Might be a Workaholic – and What to Do About It

We all put in more time at work these days, complaining that we feel we must check in with the office when we’re on vacation or find it impossible not to look at emails on the weekends.

But when has that commitment to our jobs crossed the line into something unhealthy?

Consider this Huffington Post article by Patricia Crisafulli, founder of FaithHopeandFiction.com:

“My addiction (let’s call it what it is) has nothing to do with stuff. I drive a 12-year-old car, and much of my wardrobe is of the same vintage. In fact, it has nothing to do with abundance; rather it’s rooted in the opposite — scarcity.

There is never enough busyness for us workaholics, who feel so alive as we tap our busy little fingers across the keyboard, as steady as a too-rapid heartbeat. We’ve taken on the nature of sharks, believing that if we stop moving we will die.”

Crisafulli isn’t the only one to publicly admit she has a problem.

On her blog, Brenda Nicole Tan writes that her workaholism led to a flare-up of a chronic autoimmune disease that was in remission.

“Recently, faced with a couple of spotty lung x-rays and abnormal blood test results, I am now at a point where I realize I may have just done irreversible damage to myself,” she writes.

Are you a Workaholic? Take the Quiz

But what is the difference between being a workaholic and just someone who works hard? Workaholics Anonymous suggests you may be a workaholic if you answer “yes” to three or more of these questions:

  1. Do you get more excited about your work than about family or anything else?
  2. Are there times when you can charge through your work and other times when you can’t?
  3. Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?
  4. Is work the activity you like best and talk about most?
  5. Do you work more than 40 hours a week?
  6. Do you turn your hobbies into money-making ventures?
  7. Do you take complete responsibility for the outcome of your work efforts?
  8. Have your family and friends given up expecting you on time?
  9. Do you take on extra work because you are concerned that it won’t otherwise get done?
  10. Do you underestimate how long a project will take and then rush to complete it?
  11. Do you believe that it is okay to work long hours if you love what you are doing?
  12. Do you get impatient with people who have other priorities besides work?
  13. Are you afraid that if you don’t work hard you will lose your job or be a failure?
  14. Is the future a constant worry for you even when things are going very well?
  15. Do you do things energetically and competitively including play?
  16. Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else?
  17. Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?
  18. Do you think about your work while driving, falling asleep or when others are talking?
  19. Do you work or read during meals?
  20. Do you believe that more money will solve the problems in your life?

Characteristics of the workaholic

You may not realize that you’re a workaholic, especially if you’re so consumed with work that you don’t allow time for reflection.

As Crisafulli writes:

I’ve been dancing as fast as I can for such a long time, whether literally in a weekly Zumba class or figuratively through a tightly choreographed schedule. I tell myself I can’t afford to miss a beat because I might fall down and never get up.”

Does that sound familiar? Workaholics often find it difficult to relax, and feel the need to just get a few more things done before they can feel good about themselves. They have an uncontrollable desire to do more and more, and are frightened to even think about stopping. Workaholics may begin to procrastinate as they resent having to work more, and sink into self-pity. They may also feel as if they’re smarter than everyone else – or incapable and worthless.

The emotional fallout is often painful, as noted by Crisafulli:

“Although I rarely miss a deadline, I have failed at all those other things that provide joy, renewal and validation. I’m not just talking about the proverbial rose-smelling; for me, it’s about the creative side of my life, the things that bring intrinsic rewards: those short stories I enjoy writing, the blogs that express my thoughts and feelings.”

Psychologist Stephanie Brown, author of “Speed: Facing Our Addiction to Fast and Faster — and Overcoming Our Fear of Slowing Down,” says many people cannot stop the frantic pace of their lives. She says that we’re afraid to slow down  our busy, chaotic lives that have us constantly chasing the next big thing.

“It’s an addiction because people cannot stop,” she says. “We want to stop and we need to stop, but we can’t. We’re in constant motion and action.”

We often believe that life is  ”jackpot”  and we can “have it all,” with our culture encouraging us to do more and produce more, she says. The fallout is that we begin to forget what it feels like to have downtime.

 The road to recovery

Recovery from workaholism is much like it is for a drug addict or an alcoholic. For example, Workaholics Anonymous advises setting aside time each day for prayer and meditation and looking to a “higher power” before accepting commitments. Brown advocates “trusting the quiet” and reaching for deeper relationships that come from a slower, quieter life.

Some others suggestions:

  • Set priorities. You get to decide the most important thing to do first, even if that is doing nothing. By trying to stay flexible, you can reorganize priorities as needed and look at interruptions or change as opportunities for growth.
  • Don’t take on too much.  Don’t add an activity without eliminating something else that takes just as much time and energy. In addition, give yourself extra time for your tasks so that you’re not running behind if there’s an unexpected glitch.
  • Don’t multitask. Do one thing at a time, at a comfortable pace and learn to rest before you get tired. Always think about how you feel before you start a task so you’ll be attuned to times you need to stop and recharge.
  • Learn to accept.  Rushing around, being impatient and demanding perfection will slow recovery. You have to learn to accept the outcomes of your efforts whenever they happen.

Do you think workaholism is becoming a bigger problem in the workplace today? Why or why not?

You may also like:

Work Smarter, Not Harder
Work Smart, Not Just Hard – Interview with Productivity Guru, Erin Falconer














Anita Bruzzese

Anita Bruzzese is a syndicated columnist for Gannett/USA Today on workplace issues and the author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy.” She has been on the Today show, and quoted in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, Self.com and BusinessWeek.com. Her website, 45things.com, is listed on the Forbes top 100 websites for women.

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